A Tale of Two Summits: Shaping the next decade of integrated action on climate and sustainability

Delivering ambitious, collaborative climate action is crucial to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

This September in New York, Heads of State and Government will come together at the UN headquarters for two dedicated Summits on climate action and the SDGs. These Summits will be the key events among a week full of activity – all of which aiming towards driving ambitious and integrated action on climate and sustainability. Kicking off with the Global Climate Strike on 20 September, a climactic moment for youth led activism, New York Climate Week will bring together citizens, activists, experts, practitioners and civil society, all pushing for accelerated action.

In parallel, all levels of government will bring their voices to the climate and SDG Summits to chart a path for action on climate and sustainability over the next decade. This year presents a critical opportunity as the SDGs and climate, alongside other global priorities, are simultaneously on the agenda for Heads of State and Government at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly. The efforts to advocate for sustainability have paid off. Now is the time to scale up action and implementation.

The UN Climate Action Summit

Nine interdependent tracks and nineteen leading countries are set to drive the UN Climate Action Summit on 23 September. The aim – and silver thread – is to boost momentum, raise ambition, and deliver on the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) through bolder targets and swifter implementation. Local and regional governments and city networks will bring their efforts to the Summit primarily through the Infrastructure, Cities and Local Action track which includes thematic initiatives on transport, resilience and finance. 

The UN Climate Action Summit serves as a unique platform for heads of State and Governments to focus specifically on climate change. In 2014, the Summit opened the doors of UN Headquarters to subnational governments, institutions, organizations and civil society for the first time, bringing their views, challenges and concerns to the table. The momentum from such broad participation was a driving force for the Paris Agreement, and planted the seed for truly inclusive, multilevel governance initiatives such as the Talanoa Dialogue.

The Paris Agreement is a landmark achievement in climate negotiation and now is the moment of opportunity to turn its aims into swift implementation and progress towards climate neutrality. The need for climate action is growing ever-more urgent.

In response to this growing urgency, this year’s Summit will bring these issues directly to national governments, demanding action and offering a unique platform to raise ambition and foster multilevel action. The Summit focuses on the responsibility for climate action at the national level, but provides national governments with support from local governments, intergovernmental institutions, NGOs and civil society. Its outcomes will shape inputs to the UNFCCC’s 25th Conference of the Parties (COP25) in December 2019.

The SDG Summit

The SDG Summit on 24-25 September will follow up and comprehensively review progress on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Summit was created as a platform to more regularly focus on holistic, sustainable development. It builds on the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development where governments launched the process to develop the SDGs, shifting the focus towards sustainability following the Millenium Development Goals.

Similarly to the Climate Action Summit, the SDG Summit brings together Heads of State and Government to follow up and comprehensively review progress on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs. Importantly, the Summit is the first UN event of this kind since the adoption of the SDGs, the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement. 

Through the 2nd High-level Local and Regional Government Forum, held in parallel to the SDG Summit on 24 September,a broad diversity of subnational governments are given a chance to provide input to, and support negotiations. This recognition of the subnational level acknowledges the critical importance of localizing the SDGs and driving transformative change.

ICLEI’s commitment to driving integrated multilevel action

Subnational representatives and networks have been persistent in advocating for more involvement of local leaders in the agenda-setting of global climate action due to their on-the-ground knowledge and ability to catalyze local implementation. The robust engagement of local and regional governments in global climate efforts is an indicator of success for city networks and sustainability organizations that have been advocating for multilevel collaboration and action. Cities and regions are bringing impactful action and ambition to the table. In some cases, local and regional governments are setting the bar with more ambitious commitments than their respective national governments. 

The ICLEI network is committed to integrated, multilevel action on climate and sustainability and is driving more than 200 actions and initiatives, addressing all 17 SDGs. ICLEI’s Montréal Commitment guides the network towards a sustainable urban future along five holistic and interconnected pathways: low emission, nature-based, equitable and people-centered, resilient and circular development. At the ICLEI World Congress 2018 in Montréal, ICLEI issued a call to local and regional governments to aim for 100 percent renewable energy and divest from fossil fuels as critical steps to achieve climate neutral government operations and infrastructure.

ICLEI stands ready to support all levels of government in driving transformative change. If the world misses the next 10-year window to accelerate action, there is no turning back. The next decade is crucial and the time to act is now.

Follow @ICLEI_USA and @ICLEI_Advocacy and check back here for ICLEI’s engagement at the Summits.

Read more on city and city network support for the UN Climate Action Summit.

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